Charter Bias, Bad Math & Lack Of Integrity Shine In News Journal Article About District-Charter Funding War

The News Journal just put up an article on the charter school funding scam and their bias towards charters is painfully clear.

Saranac Spencer has just proven herself as one of the worst education reporters in the history of Delaware.  First off, I know you reached out to more people than Alison May, Bob Silber, Greg Meece, Kendall Massett, and two legislators for this article.  Second of all, you didn’t research the facts behind this story at all.  If the charter supporters were so shocked by the reversal of the Delaware DOE’s decision because they planned for it in their budgets, didn’t that throw up a major red flag for you?  The districts didn’t know about this at all until last week.  Charters planned their budgets months ago.  Doesn’t that point you in a direction of collusion Ms. Spencer?  Do you even know how to investigate an issue?  I know you read my blog post.  You completely ignored the fact this was done in closed-door meetings at the DOE by a rogue Associate Secretary of Education and Secretary Godowsky didn’t even know about this until last week.  That was the true story here.  But you used the word transparency once in the article.

Furthermore, the DOE didn’t “begin looking into this in April”.  It was brought to them by Greg Meece and his merry band of firestarters over at Newark Charter School.  Or, as you put it, the beneficiary of $1 million dollars in this debacle.  The fact that the DOE is in negotiations on this matter after Secretary Godowsky told legislators this would NOT happen this year shows them to be proven liars, yet again.

May said Wednesday night that the department was in discussions with district and charter leaders that would determine which formula would ultimately be used this year.

And what you didn’t even touch on is the fact that the DOE (or is it?) is eliminating the match tax allocations from a restricted status.  Yeah, you forgot that VERY big part.

For the 2016 fiscal year, the district had excluded $9.3 million. Under the adjusted formula for the 2017 fiscal year, it would only be able to exclude about $650,000.

Actually publishing this elusive formula would help.  Did you even bother to look at Christina’s budget to see what that means?  What programs and district services would have to be cut for Christina students?  Take away from poor students so the more affluent students at Newark Charter can get more “cafetoriums” and Title I awards when they aren’t even a Title I school?  And before some NCS parent or teacher says “that is federal money”, you’re missing my point.  No.  Not one mention of that.  It’s all about what the poor charters aren’t getting.  Poor Greg Meece.  Boo-Hoo.  Poor Kendall Massett.  Boo-friggin-Hoo.  Ms. Spencer didn’t even bother to see what those cuts are and what they will mean.  She took the side of the charter advocates and didn’t even ask the districts what their opinion was.  That is bad journalism and in very poor taste on a controversial issue.  I  got lambasted by those “charter school supporters” because my article wasn’t “true journalism”.  Guess what, your article was not true journalism.  Not even close.  I have a good excuse.  This is a blog.  But you, you represent the largest newspaper in the state.  And your taking sides is not a good work ethic or even close to journalistic integrity.  How about the News Journal starts to really investigate what goes on in this state instead of being a public relations vessel for the DOE and the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  It is getting really old.

But the worst bit of sloppiness in the article is the fact that THE NUMBERS DON’T ADD UP!  If you look at Christina’s preliminary FY2017 budget, there is something very wrong with her figures.  To anyone who decides to look up their budget, it shows over $49 million in Christina’s local restricted budget.  Now I can figure out where she got her $9.3 million figure from very clearly.  But to the readers of the News Journal who don’t happen to venture over here or bother to look up their budget, it paints a picture that Christina is skewing their numbers by 94%.  That is just bad journalism.  When the true story, based on what the charters are claiming to be true, is a very different percentage.  That comes out to 17.8% if  you take the TOTAL restricted funds they have of $48,389,296 by the very disputable $8.6 million the charters are claiming to be shortchanged from.  See what they did there?  Painting a picture like that on an already controversial issue is very deceptive.  It makes me wonder who in editorial is doing the fact-checking and let’s this hack work through to the printing press.

FY2016&2017CSD

If you subtract $650,000 from $9.3 million, you get $8,650,000.  Which number in this scenario shows $9,306,899?  That would be salary and wages.  But what the News Journal seems to forget is the fact that this district had a referendum last year.  And certain funds were earmarked out of the referendum revenue they will get to support the promises from that referendum.  Like restoring positions they cut when they lost their referendum attempts last year.  Which they have to do.  But the News Journal Lois Lane wannabe doesn’t bother to look into that important detail.

State Rep. Paul Baumbach plays the wishy-washy side here.

“The main concern is not that we are looking at the formula,” said state Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark. “The main concern is that too few eyes were looking at the formula.”

So whose responsibility is that?  What Rep. Baumbach fails to mention here is who has determined the formula for many years.  It is not the Delaware Department of Education.  It is the Office of Management and Budget, which comes out of the Governor’s office.  I pointed out in an article last night there was something very wrong with Christina jumping from $2.4 million to $7.3 million in payments to Newark Charter School over a three-year time span.  Especially when Newark Charter’s students that choiced from Christina only went from 1200 to 2000 in the same timeframe.  For a formula that hasn’t changed in well over a decade, except for minor inflation costs, that sure is one hell of a leap.  What has the Office of Management and Budget been doing with this formula?  Was this the same Office of Management and Budget that forced the Delaware Auditor of Accounts Office that forced Kathleen Davies to be put on leave?  The Auditor of Accounts for Delaware who was investigating charter schools in various inspections at the time?  One of which just so happened to be Newark Charter School?  I know that is a fact because I gave them the tip!  It looks to me like Newark Charter School has benefitted from this elusive formula for years!  Betcha didn’t know that very important fact Ms. Spencer!

The News Journal only mentions Baumbach and State Rep. Kim Williams as the legislators who reached out to Godowsky last Sunday.  There were many more.

But the topping on this farce of an article was the quote from Kendall Massett, of the lobbyist Delaware Charter Schools Network.

“This should not be a district-charter fight,” Massett said. “It’s about equity.”

Equity?  Coming from a paid lobbyist?  This woman has the unmitigated gall to bring up equity?  When she knows exactly what Newark Charter School does?  My God Kendall, please, just stop.  Equity and equality are too very different things.  Equity in this conversation would be closing down Newark Charter School based on their 21st Century racism, discrimination, and social engineering.  It is RACISM folks.  They can say they are coming around to it now, but the way their school is structured now with their demographics, it would take years for them to turn this discrimination factory around.  It is the affluent keeping out the unwanted.  It is segregation.  The very same school that will get more money and wants to cry poor?  When they just spent over $1.4 million dollars on a STEM lab and a performing arts center (or cafetorium as some may want to call it), when they refused to let a disabled six year old girl apply for their precious lottery until we beat them up over that?  Or when they get Federal money designed for Title I schools and they aren’t EVEN A TITLE I SCHOOL?  And our Delaware DOE was the one that submitted them for the award?  And they only qualified because the surrounding district was Title I?  The fact that this school applied for grant money, DOE performance funds, and a minor modification for a “performing arts center” that is actually a cafeteria and an auditorium already shows their inability to tell the truth.  And people just keep handing them dollar after dollar, and they want more.  Wake up!  Don’t you see what is going on here?

If this goes through tomorrow, Secretary Godowsky will have gone back on his word to the General Assembly legislators.  When he knew about this is immaterial at this point.  He knows about it now.  And if he does go through with it, we all know it isn’t even him making this decision.  It is Governor Jack Markell.  If this doesn’t go through, and things stay on course with our largest media outlet in the state heavily slanted on the charter side of the equation, it will happen eventually.  For a state that wants to do soooo much to help our kids in poverty and who are considered at-risk, we sure have a funny way of showing it.

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39 thoughts on “Charter Bias, Bad Math & Lack Of Integrity Shine In News Journal Article About District-Charter Funding War

  1. Ahhh… so the truth comes out and you are still complaining. Traditional public schools are moving $$ around and not following the formula consistently but you are OK with that. You spend hours looking for $$ issues in Charter schools (that is wrong) and blast it out… biased? Keep spreading the bad intel.

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    1. Greg, what is this sordid truth you are claiming? If the DOE has approved how these funds are used for many years, as the article fully states (one thing it did get right), than please explain to me what this “truth” that you speak of really is? Yet Meece and all his almost cult-like followers have yet to answer ANY of the questions I posed to the school the other night. How does NCS money from Christina rise from $2.4 million to $7.3 million when the CSD students going to NCS went from 1200 to 2000? Can you explain that to me and how that has NOT benefitted NCS immensely? If there are issues with this funding formula then both sides need an equal shot to talk it out. But having the charters whine and complain about it, holding back-door meetings with the DOE, and then having the DOE attempt to put forth these rules a week before school starts is the very definition of shady. But I suppose that’s the “Delaware Way”…

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      1. Here we go Christina School District tax payers. They’ll put another referendum through again, crying poor mouth. They will change nothing at the top and the students and teachers continue to suffer.

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      2. I agree with what you are trying to do here 100%. Quality education should be available to all… no question and I don’t know anyone who would argue that. But the way you go about it with 1/2 info, bad intel, lies and biased stats is what I don’t agree with. Also, I don’t know how we do that in our current environment between laws, govt, families, teachers union, poverty, etc… without blowing the entire thing up and starting over. So I am not sure what I can do to help. Obviously your way of helping it to post bad intel and slanted articles in order to fan the flames (works well for you). I have no idea why the NCS pull from CSD went from 2.4 to 7.3? Do you? Don’t you think CSD would be all over that if it was wrong? Why does Meece or anyone need to tell you why that happened? Can’t you find out from your CSD buddies? Who are you other than a concerned parent who doesn’t live anywhere near the district with a blog? I don’t have time to be here all day or read all of this but it appears the question here was the application of the formula and not being transparent/consistent… not moving funds from restricted to unrestricted. Aren’t you all about being open, transparent and consistent? But I don’t see you screaming on here that schools are not following the formula properly. Maybe you should spend all of this pent up anger/energy on improving the schools that need the help? Just an idea…

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  2. Ha, it is out… you are so wrong. If schools have been following the formula all along properly this would have never happened. Transparency and consistency!! Oh… well only for Charters!! Issue your apology now!! How do people ready this crap from you?

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    1. I don’t know how anyone “ready this crap from you” Greg. Your love of NCS is so apparent. It blinds you to answering any of the hard questions. Which no one at this schools seems to be able to do.

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  3. You are right in identifying the News Journal’s bias – against charter schools. There was no change in funding proposed as you and the article state. Christina began funneling money into the excluded section when they realized DOE wasn’t checking it. Baumbach’s statement confirms that – he is no friend of charter schools.
    Now you’re outraged they got caught stealing money from charter school students. By the way, that money belongs to students in Eastside, Kuumba, Aspira, DMA, Edison, etc… I guess they’re all affluent students, too. Who has the blinders on?
    The next question is HOW LONG HAVE THEY BEEN DOING THIS?
    By the way, the cafetorium was built as a part of the high school building. The arts rooms are classrooms for the performing arts – you still can’t seem to say the truth.
    Once again, you can’t get off that crate. “The end is nigh! I can see the asteroid now!”
    “Ahem, you have a spot on your glasses.”
    “There’s still an asteroid coming, I swear it’s true!”
    People watch in awe of the delusion, not because it is believable.

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    1. Hold on there Lassie! This is one letter from one board member, making some very serious accusations. I have yet to see a Delaware DOE response to these allegations. Didn’t they sign off on these exclusions? If that were the case you should be yelling at the DOE, not Christina.

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    2. As Stephen Dressel himself wrote in the letter: “As the underlying requirement is that funding for operating expenses follows the
      student, such exclusions are to be justified and approved annually by the Secretary of
      Education, as stated in the Delaware Charter School Law.”

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      1. So, what does that say when you make accusations? Why should people just believe you? Will you apologize to those you’ve been slandering through this whole thing?
        They both deserve blame if Christina knew DOE wasn’t looking and they (CSD) tried to sneak it through. Potentially, that could be criminal for CSD employees, board members who participated. State auditor should be getting involved in this.

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        1. Okay, these documents aren’t hand-delivered to DOE and the Secretary signs it in front of the CFO of the district. It isn’t the same as it was in “It’s A Wonderful Life” Pete. So if CSD is submitting these exclusions for all these years and DOE is approving them, what does that tell you? It tells me that CSD was doing exactly what the law says: submit to DOE, DOE approves, as per the charter school law. If the DOE didn’t want to do their due diligence, then scream at them. If your boss (Delaware State Law) tells you to do something (CSD) and you do it, and your boss signs off on it (DOE- Department in Delaware), and you’ve had this understanding for years and years, but your boss may not have really been looking at them and just signing, is that the fault of the employee (CSD)? I think your accusations of criminal wrongdoing are pointing in the wrong direction here. Very sneaky Pete!

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          1. You pointed it out yourself early on in this whole thing. DOE called all the school districts telling them to submit the exclusions. If districts are required to submit them for approval, why didn’t DOE already have them. That would be the first violation of the law by the district(s). DOE failing to recognize they weren’t submitted & failing to approve would be DOE’s violation of the law. If CSD noticed that DOE wasn’t calling them when they failed to submit and then intentionally began putting funds they knew were not permitted into the exclusions, that is fraud. Violation of the law #2. CSD was fully aware of what types of funds qualified for exclusions. I would be stunned that its accounting office, CFO, and Board accidentally put more than 10 times the amount into the exclusions category. That is malfeasance at best, fraud at worst. I’m not saying it was absolutely criminal, rather an investigation is needed to find out if it was criminal and to put procedures in place to try to prevent in from happening again.
            Why do you think they went running to you bloggers and anti-charter legislators so quickly? I think they were hoping all of you could squash it before it got out. That’s why TNJ’s article was so carefully worded – calling it a change in funding instead of spotting inappropriate funds in the exclusions. Baumbach pointing out that nobody at DOE was watching instead of calling out CSD for being either inept or dishonest?
            If parents don’t lock their liquor cabinet or check the volume, is it OK for the kids to sneak some out? Is the kid innocent? CSD’s been gulping from the bottle. The question is how long have they been doing it. Yes, it is sneaky!

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          2. No, what I wrote was they were asked to submit what they put in restrict and non-restricted funds. Key difference there Pete. How do we know these weren’t submitted for approval? This would be Pre-Godowsky. That would be going back to Lowery/Murphy. We all know Murphy couldn’t find his way out of a paper bag when it comes to complex issues. I would think Lowery, coming from Christina, would have known this. So the argument that 1) CSD didn’t submit these for approval, 2) the Secretary never approved them, and 3) that CSD are criminally breaking the law is based on a lot of assumptions. How do you know DOE doesn’t have this documentation?

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          3. How would exclusions be approved if they weren’t detailed? The fact that DOE had to request the info implies that they didn’t receive it as required by law, no?

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          4. Not seeing the humor. Documents regarding accounting are typically detailed. Accounting documents required by law are typically very detailed as the law usually requires it.
            I do find it interesting that after all that “greedy Newark Charter doesn’t care about poor children in CSD” hasn’t transferred to all those poor students in charter schools, including those in poverty in Newark Charter School. Why don’t they count when funds are taken from them?

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          5. Thanks Pete. I know what the word detailed means. I just found it funny that YOU should use that word. Are you an accountant? And since you seem to be so much in the know on this matter, how is that NCS even came to know about the alleged exclusions?

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        2. As I said, it is my opinion but I think the evidence requires an investigation. I am not an accountant but I know the basics of finance and a little about school finance.
          I would think that NCS could find the exclusions because as a public organization, CSD is required by FOIA to disclose some information by request.
          Why is is funny that I used the word detailed? Have I shown myself to be lacking in my lexicon?

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      2. DOE wouldn’t have been talking about shifting funds if there wasn’t some truth to Dressel’s letter. They only backed down after you and others started the push back. I have a feeling you should have done some more research than just listening to your anti-charter friends.

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  4. Kevin, you know you have a powerful post by how desperately these charter school parents try to twist your words. Greg and Pete should be ashamed at how pathetic their arguments are. Too bad their computers don’t automatically search Google for the definition of “hypocrite” every time they attempt to type the word “lie.”

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      1. Two peas in a pod, John & Kevin. I’m surprised you don’t mention all your heroes (Chavez, Castro, Che, Karl & Vlad) in your posts.
        I’m no sheep. I see the blinders & bias both of you have. Better to defend substandard systems & policies because the union supports you than trying to improve education in schools. “Nothing to see here! All of these sschools are great! CSD has been fiscally responsible & honest for generations! Any critics are racists! They don’t want a better system for all the kids! Move along!” How many more of you climb out of that tiny car every show?
        Kowalko is an embarrassment to Newark – you should choose your friends better.

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        1. Gee Pete, with friends like you, who needs enemies. I have never stated Christina doesn’t have problems or issues. Every school in America does. Even the beloved and almighty NCS. I’ve seen what lies beneath at that school and it is truly frightening. This whole thing started w/NCS and a grudge against Christina. I’m pretty sure the other districts and even charters are pretty pissed at NCS right now for dragging everyone into it. I don’t think the DOE is too happy w/them either. So you can compare Kowalko and I to all your favorites out there all you want, but once again, if it wasn’t for Greg Meece and his trusted source, none of this would have ever happened.

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          1. After reading Kowalko’s post and then yours, I reacted poorly. I stooped to your level and took potshots that could be taken personally by you. That is not my nature. Your reference to charter, and specifically NCS, supporters as sheep struck me as typical of Kowalko and people of your ilk. You think that people are incapable of making their own decisions and it is your responsibility to guide them to the “right” path of following you. In order to do that, you must make victims of people, usually along racial or economic lines and then project yourself and your political allies to be “the great white hope” who will correct this supposed victimization. If people disagree with you, attack them by saying they are incapable of individual thought or worse, racists. I think that is why you used this site to help launch a campaign toward the Capital BOE.
            People can make their own decisions. The evidence is in the thousands of families in suburbs and cities that choose to send their children to charter schools.
            I see a district that has repeatedly violated the people’s trust and held their own students and staff hostage in order to get a referendum passed. A district that serves 75% of the population it used to, yet has not closed or consolidated any buildings in order to try to save money and keep teachers. Yet, I am supposed to trust that they were placing money into the exclusions in a completely legitimate manner? Especially after the DOE told them over $7 million didn’t belong there, only to backtrack after a political firestorm? I need far more than that to trust CSD.
            I see my kids playing and spending time with Black, White, Asian, and Latino kids from their charter school. They are far more interested in their friendships than their races, religions, or economic backgrounds. You could learn from them.
            As for Kowalko, he is little more than Newark’s Donald Trump without the money. He craves media attention and makes personal attacks towards those with whom he disagrees. Therefore, he is an embarrassment to all the citizens of Newark.

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          2. You are certainly entitled to your opinion Pete. Just as I am entitled to disagree with you. The DOE can say what it wants, but the fact remains the DOE approved the change in their exclusions way back when. I have yet to hear anyone from NCS dispute that very real fact. Whether they should have or not is a matter of discussion, but by law they did. The law is often a matter of perception and in this case there are two different perceptions.
            I see a district that has been rooted in problems beginning with the court order to divide Wilmington into four districts. Making Christina a part of this when they aren’t landlocked to Wilmington was probably a mistake. I don’t think anyone is arguing that. This set up decades of angst within this district. Let’s make one thing clear: no school, whether it is charter or traditional district is perfect. Not even NCS. Education is much more than the classroom. In life, education is everything. We are constantly learning. Have there been some bad eggs in Christina? Yes. Joey Wise springs to mind along with others. But the forces against Christina have also contributed to the very issues the district faces up to this day. I get why NCS was created in the first place. Parents didn’t want their children to be subjected to the climate problems in CSD. They felt it was an unwinnable situation for their children so they acted. I will never blame parents for doing that. Protecting our children is our duty and moral responsibility. But somewhere along the way, things got very convoluted and what began as something genuine turned into something else altogether. This battle began way before I even moved to Delaware. I didn’t get involved in researching Delaware education until a few years ago. But as someone who doesn’t live in New Castle County, I have a unique vantage point. I can see both sides of the issues without any type of bias or preconceived notions. We can go back and forth and cast blame on CSD or NCS and which came first, but what good is that going to do? Not a lot.
            I firmly believe CSD will face the topic of consolidating schools very soon. It is a reality they won’t be able to soon ignore. I am hopeful and even though it seems like I am an eternal pessimist, I always believe in the hope that things will get better. Which is, perhaps, why I frequently lose my cool when I see steps back instead of forward. But what I do trust is for Christina to answer honestly about financial issues. I don’t trust NCS in that area. They have yet, from an administrative point of view, to answer the many lingering questions I’ve presented in countless articles on this blog. That concerns me. They are not immune to public inquiry about their finances.
            As far as Kowalko, he and I agree on many issues. But continually lumping Kowalko and I into the same person is insulting. To myself and John. In any political arena, there are those who speak their mind loudly and it does gain public attention, whether good or bad. But there are also those who make the quiet digs, that are passive-aggressive in nature and do far more damage than anything Kowalko does or says.
            Perhaps at some point Meece and I can sit down and discuss some of my issues with NCS. I don’t feel we are at that point in time at this moment, but my door is open for that.
            I do feel people are easily led into following false narratives. That has been going on for centuries. We are, in large part, what surrounds us. I don’t make victims of people. I make victims of already existing victims. There is a difference. I don’t ask people to follow me. I present facts and ideas and ask them to look into it. I can’t force anyone to do anything. They make their own choices. I feel it is my responsibility to show all sides of issues. This “great white hope” you speak of is an illusion. There is no such thing. To me, that very phrase has a tint of racism involved with it. I have always advocated for looking at a person by who they are in their heart, not by their physical features. I’ve written about that publicly going back to my college newspaper days back in the day. It should never be about us vs. them.
            I’ve made assumptions that are sometimes wrong. I have never denied that. But to continue to treat this blog as unworthy because it isn’t a newspaper is really getting annoying. Mainstream journalism frequently gets things wrong. There is no such thing as “fair and unbiased” anymore.
            Take the Bible for example. For many Christians, this is the word of God. But many forget the Bible was rewritten by the Council of Nicea, by man. Many parts were taken out of the Bible to conform to attitudes and ideas of that time. Is it still the word of God when that happens? I believe in the basic tenets of man: do unto others as they would do unto you. Live a just life. But the whole aspect of forgiveness has become so convoluted and twisted over the years. Far too much fire and brimstone for my liking. Which probably sounds ironic coming from me, but I think our society has become so equipped to only thinking one way no matter what the side is. I’m babbling at this point, but there is always more than one aspect to a person.

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          3. Of course you have a bias and preconceived notions about charter schools based on your own experiences and political leanings. Not living in the district doesn’t give you a special ranking as an unbiased viewer any more that living in another country gives a person an unbiased view of Presidential candidates.
            The “great white hope” comment was intended to have racial overtones in that you see yourself as that. I wanted to point how easy it is to accuse someone of racism without knowing them or their views. You have constantly called NCS (and by default its leadership, faculty, and parents) discriminatory without any thought to the attack on the character of those people. It is just as easy to point out that in considering particular groups victims without their voice is discriminatory and racist. It assumes that those groups are unable or incapable of speaking out and having their own voice. That is occasionally true but the evidence of support for charters in city and suburbs in predominantly minority and predominantly white communities demonstrates they are using their voices.
            You play fast and loose with your words with no concern about their impact on people. Yet, you are easily insulted when the tables are turned. The evidence is in your last response to me and the post complaining about a legislator criticizing you on facebook. You had no trouble calling me a sheep but were offended when I linked you with Kowalko and used the above phrase.

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    1. Mike,
      You can judge idiocy by the comments of a person. You have just helped prove that. Racism is a view, often followed by an action. You have absolutely no evidence of racist views or “fruits” by the people you attack. In my view, the actions & words of people like you are racist. You don’t like charter schools so you use racism as a means of attack. I’m willing to bet you never had any issues with the numerous ways district schools have failed minority students. Using race to support a political point (in your case, I suspect union membership dues) when you don’t give a damn otherwise demonstrates both the view and the “fruits.”

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